PORT CLINTON, Pa. - Last month, a major deal was struck between a Pennsylvania coal company and a Ukrainian utility.
The arrangement has huge ramifications for local coal mines and for a Port Clinton company called Reading & Northern Railroad.
Andrew Muller, Jr. is the CEO of Reading & Northern, and is a train entrepreneur.
He told 69 News with a laugh, "I played with trains ever since I was a kid, so...I don't want to say I'm playing with trains now but it's sort of close, right?"
According to Muller, business is good.
"Healthy would be an understatement. It's tremendous," he said.
His trains move all kinds of freight.
"If you're using it, we're moving it. From sugar to paper, to chemicals," he said.
They also move coal from local mines.
"This year? I mean we could do a million tons," he said.
That is about double the usual amount, in part because of a big deal recently announced by the Trump administration.
It's hard to even imagine this, but coal pulled out of the ground in our area is being shipped to Reading, down to Baltimore, and then to Ukraine.
"We're talking about approximately 700,000 tons of coal," said Ernie Thrasher, CEO of XCoal Energy and Resources.
His company won the lucrative contract with the Ukrainian utility Centrenergo PJSC, which generates electricity.
The U.S. government helped facilitate the deal, but he says that's where it ends.
"There's no government money involved, no government subsidies involved. It's a true commercial transaction," he told 69 News.
While the deal helps his company, and local mines, it's also part of a foreign policy strategy to lessen Russian influence over Ukraine.
"There's a history of Russia using energy as a foreign policy tool," he said.
"This will free the Ukrainians of that obligation to succumb to that pressure from the Russian coal mining companies."
That all comes back to Andrew Muller.
To help move all that coal to Ukraine, they need his trains.
"We don't own any of the coal, we don't buy or sell any of it. Our role is strictly to move it," he said.
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